EU Afghanistan Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development - European Scrutiny Contents


1 EU Afghanistan Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development

Committee's assessment Politically important
Committee's decision(a) and (b): Not cleared from scrutiny; recommended for debate in European Committee B (decision reported on 20 January 2016), together with the Joint Communication: Elements for an EU Strategy in Afghanistan 2014-16, already referred for debate on 25 February 2015 (decision confirmed on 21 July 2015)
Document details(a) Council Decision on the signing of the Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development between the EU and Afghanistan; (b) Council Decision on the conclusion of the Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development between the EU and Afghanistan
Legal baseArticle 37 TEU and Articles 207 and 209, in conjunction with Article 218(6)(a) and the second paragraph of Article 218(8) TFEU; unanimity
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Document Numbers(a) (37417), 15503/15 + ADD 1, JOIN(15) 35;

(b) (37418), 15504/15 + ADD 1, JOIN(15) 36

Summary and Committee's conclusions

1.1 A 2014 Joint Communication, Elements for an EU Strategy in Afghanistan 2014-16, outlined the key objectives and initiatives upon which the EU would seek to focus on in support of the Afghan Government: promoting peace and security; reinforcing democracy; encouraging economic and human development; and fostering the rule of law and respect for human rights. It was designed principally to ensure a comprehensive and coordinated approach to activities on the ground between the EU and Member States in support of the Government.

1.2 Details of the context — particularly the 2012 Tokyo Conference, at which the International Community pledged to improve aid effectiveness and provide US$16 billion[1] to Afghanistan in return for the Government of Afghanistan meeting its commitments under the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework (TMAF)[2] — are summarised in our previous Report.[3]

1.3 Against this background, on 17 December 2015 the Commission submitted to the Council a proposal to sign and conclude a Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development (CAPD) between the EU and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. It was described by the Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) as:

"a framework for further engagement and cooperation between the EU and Afghanistan across a number of wider range of areas, including political cooperation, human rights, gender equality, civil rights, peace building, counter-terrorism, development, trade, rule of law, policing, migration, education, energy and the environment."

1.4 The Minister said that the CAPD underpinned the EU's commitment to supporting Afghanistan's future development during its "decade of transformation" agreed at the 2011 Bonn conference, and acknowledged the results of the subsequent Bonn, Chicago, Kabul, Tokyo and London international conferences on Afghanistan.

1.5 The Agreement includes provisions on political dialogue and on cooperation in a broad range of areas. It draws on the EU's standard political clauses on human rights and the International Criminal Court, and includes commitments related to the rights of women and children. The Agreement builds on the principles of mutual accountability and reiterates the willingness of the parties to address shared concerns, including: 1) the fight against terrorism, international crime and illegal trafficking; 2) non-proliferation, disarmament and nuclear security; 3) Weapons of Mass Destructions (WMD); 4) Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW); and 5) counter-narcotics. The provisions on cooperation cover the following sectors: infrastructure development, energy, transport, health, natural resources, tax, education and culture, employment and social affairs, science and technology, and environment and climate change. The Agreement also emphasises the importance of legal cooperation and affirms the parties' commitment to fighting organised crime, money laundering and corruption.[4]

1.6 The Minister described all this as "a high-level agreement framing the EU's intention to strengthen its relationship with Afghanistan", noting that the EU "has a significant role to play in the future of Afghanistan as a means to help develop the country in many areas including governance and the rule of law". Afghanistan itself had, he said, "just finished the first year of its 'transformation decade', [h]aving taken responsibility for its own security in 2015". The National Unity Government headed by President Ghani had "committed to an ambitious reform agenda and has begun to pursue peace with the Taleban". In order to "continue down the path of peace and stability", the Afghan Government "requires the support of the international community, including the EU". The UK's bilateral contribution to Afghanistan was "significant", and the bilateral relationship "strong". The CAPD "does not commit the UK to greater cooperation", nor "prevent us pursuing our bilateral cooperation". The UK's objective in Afghanistan is "to prevent it from returning to being a haven for international terrorism, and to build the capacity of the government". The involvement of the UK, and the EU "is vital" and the CAPD "provides the framework for a partnership to endure".

Our assessment

1.7 As well as authorising the signature and conclusion of the CAPD, these Council Decisions include, in annexes, the detailed texts concerning the areas covered by the Agreement. But the Minister said nothing about these. Nor did he say anything about how the Agreement was to be carried out. Or about what expenditure was likely to be involved, other than that the CAPD had no financial implications as such, in that it did "not commit any funds directly".

1.8 We therefore asked the Minister to provide more information on the workings of the agreement. How much money was the EU committed to provide under which headings in order to enable the new Government to implement its "ambitious reform agenda"? In what ways would the EU be involved in the administration and control of these funds? How did these funds relate to those provided by other funders? In what ways would the Government of Afghanistan be held to account? Paragraph 11 of the TMAF says:

"The Afghan Government and the International Community are to monitor performance for five major areas of development and governance according to the modalities described below. A timeline for these indicators is to be developed by the Afghan Government for the next JCMB meeting. The desired goals and initial indicators for each area are stated below."

1.9 Were there similar provisions with regard to the work streams in the CAPD and the expenditure involved? In what sense was the sort of "conditionality" involved in similar EU work in the western Balkans and the "near neighbourhood" built into the CAPD?

1.10 We noted that this wide ranging agreement was entered into by the EU without the Member States participating separately. The Commission's Explanatory Memorandum implied that it might cover matters for which competence was shared.[5] We therefore asked the Minister whether the EU would be exercising shared competence by these Decisions. If so, to what extent; and what was the justification for departing from the normal Government policy, that Member States should exercise shared competence?

1.11 Although the Council Decisions and annexes were in final form, the Minister said that the "Council Decisions are not yet finalised and continue to be negotiated in Brussels". We were given to understand that the EEAS/Commission had jumped the gun, in the sense that the texts were published in final form before all Member States had agreed to them at official level. This suggested that, though there might yet be some changes, these were unlikely to be substantive; in which case, the likelihood was that the Council Decisions would then move swiftly to adoption by the Council.

1.12 We also noted that it was nearly a year since the previous Committee had recommended that the precursor to these Council Decisions — the Joint Communication referred to above — be debated in European Committee. At our first meeting, we endorsed their recommendation for the same reason: it would be appropriate to debate the role that, one way or another, the EU would be undertaking (with EU taxpayers' money) in post-2014 Afghanistan, and the host of uncertainties surrounding the essentials for its successful implementation. Those uncertainties remained, particularly regarding the security situation. The financial uncertainties were outlined above. Nonetheless, that debate had yet to be arranged.

1.13 We therefore recommended that the Council Decisions containing this consequential CAPD be debated, in European Committee, as soon as possible, together with the Joint Communication: Elements for an EU Strategy in Afghanistan 2014-16, already referred for debate on 25 February 2015 (decision confirmed on 21 July 2015). It was important that the EU policy in Afghanistan embodied in these documents was subject to further examination, in debate, thereby enabling the Government to clarify and discuss the many uncertainties about the context in which, and how, this Agreement would operate, and interested Members to explore all the implications, including for the UK's own commitments.

1.14 In order to facilitate the best possible debate, we asked the Minister to respond to the queries raised above as speedily as possible, so that they could be reported to the House before the debate took place.

1.15 In the meantime, we retained the Council Decisions under scrutiny.[6]

1.16 The Minister begins his response by referring to separate correspondence in connection with the number of debate recommendations outstanding from the previous Parliament, and says:

"The Government had understood, on the basis of your letter to the Leader of the House of Commons on 14 October 2015, that the Committee's recommendation for a debate on the 'Joint Communication: Elements for an EU Strategy in Afghanistan 2014-16' would be rescinded. I note the Committee's recommendation of a debate on the CAPD, and the Government will seek to schedule a debate in a timely manner, taking in to account other Parliamentary business."

1.17 The Minister goes on to say that, rather than committing any funds directly, the CAPD is a signal of political commitment that outlines the areas in which both the EU and the Government of Afghanistan agree they can work together; detail on implementation will be decided once the CAPD is in place, in consultation with Member States throughout, and is all likely to take place in the context of determining the next EU Strategy for Afghanistan. Once the CAPD is agreed, and once the details on implementation are decided, funding will come from the usual range of development assistance financial instruments, the most significant being the current Multiannual Indicative Programme (MIP), part of the EU Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI), which covers the period 2014 to 2020 and has a total budget allocation of €1.4 billion (£1.07 billion). The Minister also explains that the EU is a member of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board referred to in the quotation from the TMAF in the Committee's previous report, which means that any cooperation activity which ultimately flows from the CAPD will be coordinated with other donors "through the usual processes", and "will align with the conditionality measures agreed between the wider donor community and the Government of Afghanistan" (see "Background" for details).

1.18 On the exercise of competence, the Minister says that "the status of the CAPD with regard to Member State participation has not yet been agreed", and that he shares Committee's concerns. He states that "Government policy on unexercised shared competence has not changed", and that, to this end, "the UK is making the case in Brussels for Member State participation in the CAPD".

1.19 So far as the Committee is concerned, the proposal to rescind the debate recommendation concerning the current EU-Afghanistan Strategy was part and parcel of a wider package of proposals, to which the Government has yet to respond. Moreover, from the further information now provided, it would seem that, both politically and legally, the CAPD is far from the finished article, particularly with respect to how much and in what ways the Member States will participate in its operation.

1.20 The Committee therefore maintains its earlier recommendation, and thus its subsequent recommendation that both the EU-Afghanistan Strategy and the CAPD should be debated together.

1.21 In the meantime, the documents remain under scrutiny.

Full details of the documents: (a) Joint Proposal for a Council Decision on the signing, on behalf of the European Union, of the Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development between the European Union and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan: (37417), 15503/15 + ADD 1, JOIN(15) 35; (b) Joint Proposal for a Council Decision on the conclusion, on behalf of the European Union, of the Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development between the European Union and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan: (37418), 15504/15 + ADD 1, JOIN(15) 36.

Background

1.22 The 20 October 2014 Foreign Affairs Council welcomed the formation of a Government of National Unity in Afghanistan, reiterated the EU's long-term commitment to Afghanistan and reaffirmed the comprehensive strategy agreed in June. It looked forward to working in close cooperation with the new government and international partners to safeguard the advances Afghanistan had made over the last 13 years and to support and incentivise urgently needed reforms. The EU recognised the important future role to be played by UNAMA in Afghanistan.[7] It pledged up to €1.4 billion (£1.07 billion) in assistance up to 2020, complementing the development assistance to be provided bilaterally by Member States. The EU restated its willingness to finalise the CAPD, as the basis for a wide-ranging long-term partnership between the EU and Afghanistan.

1.23 The Council also called for a clear and unequivocal commitment to respect human rights, in particular the rights of women and girls, and says that it is now imperative that the Government of Afghanistan enact the reforms necessary to restore economic confidence, promote job creation, increase revenue generation, reform the judicial system, tackle the twin threats from corruption and narcotics and improve the accountability of the state to ordinary Afghans.[8]

1.24 In February 2015, the Minister said that a new Afghan government augured well for the EU to achieve its objectives over the next three years: the reform agenda set out by President Ghani at the November 2014 London Conference was "a credible framework for delivering economic security by tackling corruption; maintaining progress on national security; delivering political reform; and consolidating progress on human rights", and was closely aligned with the EU's 2014-16 strategy — this being "designed principally to ensure that the EU and Member States can adopt a comprehensive and coordinated approach to activities on the ground in support of the Afghan Government". A CAPD would then provide a legal underpinning for a long-term partnership between the EU and Afghanistan. The Minister acknowledged that the work of the EU would be constrained by the tough security environment: but ratification of the US Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with Afghanistan, NATO's equivalent Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and "the successful standing up" of the NATO Resolute Support Mission was "a welcome backdrop for EU work" and had ended "a long period of uncertainty".

The Minister's letter of 10 February 2016

1.25 The Minister begins by referring to a separate correspondence in connection with the number of debate recommendations outstanding from the previous Parliament, and says:

"The Government had understood, on the basis of your letter to the Leader of the House of Commons on 14 October 2015, that the Committee's recommendation for a debate on the 'Joint Communication: Elements for an EU Strategy in Afghanistan 2014-16' would be rescinded. I note the Committee's recommendation of a debate on the CAPD, and the Government will seek to schedule a debate in a timely manner, taking in to account other Parliamentary business."

1.26 On the workings of the CAPD, the Minister again notes that "the Agreement does not commit any funds directly", and continues thus:

"The CAPD is a signal of political commitment and outlines the areas for cooperation that both the EU and the Government of Afghanistan agree they can work together on. It does not include detail on implementation: that will be decided once the CAPD is in place, in consultation with Member States throughout. This is all likely to take place in the context of determining the EU's next strategy for Afghanistan, to follow-on from the current strategy which runs to the end of 2016."

1.27 As to where funding will come from, the Minister says:

"EU funding in Afghanistan comes from a variety of sources, the most significant being the current Multiannual Indicative Programme (MIP), part of the EU Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI), which covers the period 2014 to 2020 and has a total budget allocation of €1.4 billion. It also receives funding from regional and thematic programmes, including the Instrument for Stability and Peace, for projects covering human rights, rule of law, assistance for displaced persons, food security and health. Once the CAPD is agreed, and once the details on implementation are decided, these are examples of the sources of funding from which the EU will draw. The Committee may also wish to note that the EU is a member of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board referred to in the quotation from the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework. Any cooperation activity which ultimately flows from the CAPD will be coordinated with other donors through the usual processes, and will align with the conditionality measures agreed between the wider donor community and the Government of Afghanistan."

1.28 Finally, on the exercise of competence, the Minister says:

"the status of the CAPD with regard to Member State participation has not yet been agreed, and I share the concerns of the Committee. The Government policy on unexercised shared competence has not changed. To this end, the UK is making the case in Brussels for Member State participation in the CAPD."

Previous Committee Reports

Twentieth Report HC 342-xix (2015-16), chapter 2 (20 January 2016); also see (35996), 9467/14, JOIN(14) 17: Thirty-fourth Report HC 219-xxxiii (2014-15), chapter 1 (25 February 2015), Eighteenth Report HC 219-xvii (2014-15), chapter 5 (5 November 2014) and Third Report HC 219-iii (2014-15), chapter 5 (18 June 2014); also see (37191), —: Eighth Report HC 342-viii (2015-16), chapter 10 (4 November 2015) and (36033) —: Second Report HC 219-ii (2014-15), chapter 11 (11 June 2014).


1   €1 Euro = £0.7641. Back

2   The Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework (TMAF) agreed in May 2012, establishes the mutual commitments of the Government of Afghanistan and the international community to help Afghanistan achieve its development and governance goals. Back

3   See Twentieth Report HC 342-xix (2015-16), chapter 2 (20 January 2016). Back

4   See the Commission's Explanatory Memorandum. Back

5   Shared competence can be exercised by either the EU or the Member States. Back

6   Twentieth Report HC 342-xix (2015-16), chapter 2 (20 January 2016). Back

7   The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) is a political mission established by the Security Council in 2002 at the request of the Government to assist it and the people of Afghanistan in laying the foundations for sustainable peace and development in the country. UNAMA thus "provides political good offices in Afghanistan; works with and supports the government; supports the process of peace and reconciliation; monitors and promotes human rights and the protection of civilians in armed conflict; promotes good governance; and encourages regional cooperation". Its mandate is reviewed annually with the latest mandate renewal being on 16 March 2015 when the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2210 (2015). Back

8   See 20 October 2014 Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions , pp.2-24. Back


 
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Prepared 2 March 2016